As of today, Monday, September 16, we have completed our first official day of riding, making our way from Dauphin Island (where we spent the night, enjoying a wonderful room in a motel on the beach) to Gulf Shores, Alabama, where I (Mary Jane) am writing this. Before filling you in on our actual riding adventures of today, we wanted to “tie some loose ends together” regarding our stay In New Orleans.
I arrived in New Orleans early Friday evening, just in time for us to think about dinner. Jane, Carol and Ramona had been enjoying the food prior to my arriving, assuring me that it was likely difficult to find a bad meal in the area. We checked at the front desk of our hotel and were advised that the Herb Saint Restaurant, within walking distance, served wonderful food. Off we went, and agreed that the elegant presentations of what each of us had chosen, in addition to the wonderful flavors in each of our entrees, contributed yet again to their impressions about the delicious food available. I should add that though the portions were modest, we in no way felt slighted in terms of calories!
Saturday was a full day. We rode the Saint Charles street car ($3 for an all day pass, no restrictions, good until 4 a. m. Sunday morning!!) hitting first Tulane University briefly, then enjoying a stroll at the Audubon Park, close to the University. The Park includes a lovely lake (about two miles in circumference) with a wonderful walking/biking path all around. We walked clear around enjoying the lovely birds . . . some which we could identify and others which we couldn’t. (See the photo of the Wood Duck . . . anyone know how a bird of such vibrant colors got that name?!) The beauty of the landscaping with all its greenery, as well as the wildlife observed, went a long way in taking our minds off the sweltering heat and dripping humidity.
We looked for lunch, confident that we would indeed find good food. We were not disappointed . . . we found a restaurant called “La Roux” (not sure how that translates!). Actually we thought it was not open . . . that staff seemed to be cleaning up from some event of a few hours prior. The manager saw us looking, assured us that he would be happy to see that we were fed, ushered us to a table, presenting us with menus. We could not believe his cordial and gracious hospitality! He wanted to know where we were from, what brought us to New Orleans, etc. And again, we were not disappointed in the food. It was a “comfort food” kind of place . . . I had baked chicken, (two huge legs) though most things were deep fried. Macaroni and cheese, sweet potato fries, kale . . . were a few of things we thoroughly enjoyed. We noted that we were addressed as “Mam” . . . seems to be the southern way; we’re noticing the same custom (addressing customers or others not known to the speaker in the respectful way) even as we venture into other southern states.
We further explored the Garden District (where La Roux is also located), enjoying the interesting houses . . . all well established, large, and well maintained. By this time, clouds were beginning to form and we became a bit nervous about being caught in the rain. We were more than lucky to stumble upon a lovely café called “Still Perkin'” . . . how cute a name for a coffee shop is that? A further stroke of luck: it began to pour as we were enjoying our coffee! Luckily the downpour did not last forever and we were able to leave when there were only some continuing sprinkles.
A major agenda item of Saturday was laundry . . . always a challenge on our biking trips. Just finding a conveniently located Laundromat is the first challenge, then after finding one, the hope is that it is clean, and that the machines actually work! We found a wonderful one! And another clever name: “Suds ‘dem Duds”! Not only was it well cared for, it was air conditioned (unheard of for a laundry mat, in my experience!). As well, the proprietor offered free laundry detergent (again, unheard of . . . most Laundromats make money on the detergent sold). We noted the artful walls including interesting objects hanging on them, for example, a scrubbing board! Efficient machines, too . . . we were done in a little over an hour!
Still full from the “lunch” at LaRoux we decided to forgo dinner, but to enjoy a snack instead. Carol, Jane and Ramona had all enjoyed, even raved about, a pastry for which New Orleans is known: the Beignet; they had tried them the day before. We passed Cafe DuMonde specializing in teas, coffees, and Beignets . . . we had to stop. The pastry was way too enjoyable. What was there not to enjoy about deep fried dough, served hot, and dipped in confection sugar. Soooo good, and a terrible calorie count, but I couldn’t help but enjoy every crumb!
Following this we were on a mission to locate another edible delight for which New Orleans is noted: Mufuletta Olive Salad . . . we did locate a jar. (Trying it later, we all agreed that it was delicious and have been enjoying it on turkey sandwiches.) I must add that part of the adventure in locating the M. O. Salad was enjoying the amazing street talent along the way on Bourbon Street. One clarinetist, in particular (see picture), stood out, playing with such heart and soul that one could not help but stand and gawk while enjoying every note she played. Her fingers seemed to fly and the notes seemed to come out so easily in spite of the sweltering heat of the day. There were many such acts. As well, the partying in the streets could not help but be noticed. Is there any other city that says “Party Time” with it music inside and out of its buildings like New Orleans?
The biggest treat of the day, perhaps, was attending a concert in Preservation Hall. An ensemble of seven musicians playing the piano, trumpet, bass violin, banjo, drums and clarinet, kept us entranced for an hour with their amazing playing of tunes, most of which included each musician taking a turn improvising, with the others supporting in the background. There was room only for about 75 people in the crowded, non-airconditioned room. We were advised that we would have to wait in line for quite a while (we waited for an hour and 15 minutes) to get tickets, but that even with the several negatives, the concert would be worth it. “They” were right!
BTW, by the end of the day we had clocked a little over seven miles in walking that we had done! A busy day, for sure.
Sunday, was “the Day of Reckoning” regarding the car . . . would we really be able to get four adults and all of their luggage packed into my Nissan Sentra! As well, we had a cooler and various other “things”, like paper towels, bicycle gear, and of course, our coffee maker . . . we’ve learned that that is a MUST . . . those tiny pots and the anemic coffee they make found in motel rooms simply don’t work for getting going in the morning! Then, there were the three bikes to get arranged on the bike rack on the back of the car. Getting all loaded up with nothing hanging out was a challenge to be sure. We did it, and even left New Orleans without anything hanging out!
Before leaving, however, we had to take in the New Orleans Museum of Art . . . the Park of Sculptures part. Another walking tour . . . a beautifully landscaped Park with 65 sculptures to view . . . and for free at that. Again, 90+ degree weather, and humid, but it was well worth it. We also took in the Metairie Cemetery, the largest cemetery in New Orleans, displaying an array of tomb architecture. The tombs are beautifully maintained and quite a contrast to the very old and run down cemetery we had walked through yesterday, the Lafayette Cemetery.
We were a little sad to leave New Orleans . . . in some ways it felt like a continual party, but we were ready for a little quiet! We crossed the Lake Pontchatrain Causeway (24 miles long!) as we made our way to Bayou La Batre, Al. More specifically, we found the wonderful motel on Dauphin Island . . . close enough! We enjoyed another amazing sunset . . . we were ready to start our actual riding the next day, Monday!